Haiti Electoral Council Chief Vows to Hold Elections Despite Setbacks

Haiti will hold elections this year despite setbacks, Provisional Electoral Council (KEP) President Guirlande Mesadieu told VOA Creole.  “We will hold elections. We will hold a referendum,” Mesadieu said. She admitted that the current September 26 date may have to be pushed back.  Despite some political groups’ attempts to pressure the KEP to put election plans on hold after President Jovenel Moise’s assassination in July, Mesadieu said the council is determined to respect the presidential decree, which called for a referendum and general elections this year.  FILE – A picture of the late Haitian President Jovenel Moise hangs on a wall before a news conference by interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 13, 2021.”We, as members of the electoral council, would be acting irresponsibly if we were to decide unilaterally to hold a referendum but not general elections, or general elections and not a referendum. So, everything in the (presidential) decree is what we are focused on,” she told VOA. The United States and the international community have repeatedly called on Haitian officials to hold general elections to restore crippled democratic institutions, such as the Parliament, and begin resolving major issues.In an interview Tuesday with VOA, Julie Chung, acting assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, reiterated that message.  “I think it’s a critical time for the people of Haiti to come together with consensus and to listen to the voices of all stakeholders to build that pathway to free and fair elections as soon as is technically feasible,” Chung told VOA.The assistant secretary said U.S. Special Envoy for Haiti Daniel Foote stayed in the country after attending Moise’s funeral to meet with Haitian officials and civil society representatives and “hear their voices.”   FILE – U.S. Special Envoy Daniel Foote meets with National Police Chief Leon Charles, U.S. Ambassador Michele Sison and a police official in Haiti over the weekend, in this image posted by the national police on Twitter on July 24, 2021.But Andre Michel, spokesperson for the Democratic and Popular Sector, said the opposition wants a dialogue to select a new transitional government and a new electoral council to organize the elections. “There must be an electoral council that is credible, an electoral council that is honest and is made up of representatives from all sectors of society,” Michel said during a press conference Tuesday.But Mesadieu told VOA the KEP will not stop working while it waits for such a dialogue.  “So, whatever people are discussing doesn’t really concern us, because we are not part of those discussions. What is clear is that if there is some sort of political accord that would allow more people to participate in the election, it will be a pleasure for us to accommodate that,” she said. “If you’re asking us to just sit idle and wait for a political accord, we’ll just keep working. If there is a political accord, it will happen while we are moving forward.”  Before Moise’s death on July 7, the opposition was unsuccessful in its attempts to agree on a consensus government and a path forward.  Mesadieu admits the KEP faces multiple obstacles as it works to organize elections.  “Of course it’s tough, because we are living in the country, and we have to deal with reality. Politics, security, the environment — all those things have repercussions on our work,” Mesadieu told VOA.It is unclear how far the September 26 election date would be pushed back, but Mesadieu said the KEP is committed to seeing its mission completed. Jacquelin Belizaire, Jorge Agobian and Renan Toussaint in Port-au-Prince contributed to this report.

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